Saturday, July 20, 2013
Post No. 187: Why the George Zimmerman–Trayvon Martin Case Really Wasn’t about Race and Why It Was
© 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
“This is just f---king ridiculous! An innocent teenager was killed.” - the view of 158,142,501 citizens interviewed over the past 3 days.
“A message was sent that law and order will reign again. He was a doped-up, disrespectful individual up to no good.” – the other 158,142,501 citizens.
Back in 2008, the Logistician was first amongst the Institute Fellows to blog. One day, he ran into our offices extolling the virtues of a “micro-blogging” platform called Twitter.
He and the Laughingman, being fellows of few words, exuded excitement at the notion of having their rants efficiently delivered in 140 character bites, while the Optimizer and Inspector Clouseau questioned whether the quality of social discourse would suffer.
Since then, we concluded that all 4 of us were right, in much the same way that those who claim the Zimmerman–Martin encounter was about race and racial profiling, and those who claim that it was not.
There is no one, clear, simple manner in which the case can be characterized - it depends on one’s perspective and experiences.
During the week before the Zimmerman verdict, we saw the number of tweets regarding Paula Deen’s use of the “N-word, and the innocence or guilt of Zimmerman [an Hispanic or Caucasian depending on one’s point of view] in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin [an African-American according to many], literally go off the chart. We could not imagine a more contentious discussion.
That is, until the verdict. We still find it unbelievable that Twitter’s servers were able to handle the volume.
One of the most frequent participants in our forum, who we personally know not to be a racist, shared this with us privately:
“This question has been much on my mind lately. Of course, I can speak only from the perspective of a white male so perhaps my perspective will be a bit controversial.
“Why must so many parents (and society as a whole) teach black teens to automatically take a defensive posture in so many circumstances? Teach them instead to answer clearly and politely when questioned as to their business in someone else's neighborhood, along with how not to behave in a suspicious manner in the first place, no matter whether ‘they shouldn't have to.’ This would seem to be pretty basic education in the realm of improving survival skills and race relations --- not to mention protecting black youth from harm --- but it appears to be infrequently taught to these young folks.
“I was certainly taught how to respond to, ‘Who are you and what are you doing here,’ with politeness rather than indignation, and I have practiced this all of my life . . . no matter the race or any other characteristic of the inquisitor.”
For our Caucasian friend, the issue was not about race, but rather attitude, and perhaps demeanor.
On the other hand, the New York Times Editorial Board, in its July 14, 2013 edition, noted, “Certainly it is about race — ask any black man, up to and including President Obama, and he will tell you at least a few stories that sound eerily like what happened that rainy winter night in Sanford, Fla.” Just yesterday [July 19, 2013], our President lamented, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
One of our African-American friends in his early 60s often tells of how he spent his youth in the South crossing to the other side of the street, as a pro-active measure, whenever he saw Caucasian women approaching, thus avoiding any chance of someone accusing him of “suspicious conduct.”
Per Harry S. Truman, “The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know.”
In much the same way, we feel that the only perspective on the Zimmerman verdict which is sacrosanct is the perspective that one’s limited experiences in life haven’t allowed one to have – yet.
One of the jurors interviewed may have unintentionally provided the key to understanding our conflict when she said, “I think [Zimmerman’s] heart was in the right place.”
What the trial really was about was “relate-ability” and ultimately, “comfort.”
A contemplative citizenry, interested in improving the plight of all of its members, recognizes individual issues for what they are; not as what they would like them to be.
Some, searching for something to blame, have gone so far as to contend that the “system” failed.
In our humble view, the system did not fail. It did what it does.
It is incomprehensibly complex and yields widely varying results in different places and different points in time. The expectation that our existence in any system should yield consistent or fair results distracts us and detracts from our ability to improve as a people.
The recognition and acceptance of the widely varying perspectives of our citizens should be celebrated, not denigrated. A country which appreciates the different perspectives and contributions of its citizens potentially gets the best out of its people.
Last year, we generated Why We’re So Anxious in America, Debate the Role of Government, and Ministers Suggest God’s Pissed. We’re living in a fast-paced world undergoing radical changes, and there is extreme insecurity in our daily lives.
What we really need to do in this country is figure out a way for everyone who wants a job to have at least a half-ass job. We have long contended that jobs [from businesses, which develop from technology] drive everything in life, not only financially, but also emotionally and spiritually. No jobs, no self-respect, and all sorts of other negative things are magnified.
We call it “trickle-out economics.” When we have enough jobs and work for people, families on the whole are better. There is less spousal, child, and substance abuse. Less crime. Less paranoia. Fewer reasons to shoot one another.
When people have more self-esteem, their interaction creates more opportunities for them to get to know, appreciate, and respect one another.
Our primary target audience, namely college students, should take special note of Trayvon’s age.
You see, this case was not about race alone; it was about anything that anyone wanted it to be.
Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"
This forum was designed to be YOUR forum for the civil exchange of ideas by people with all points of views. We welcome the submission of articles by all of our readers, as long as they are in compliance with our Guidelines contained in Post No. 34. We look forward to receiving your submissions.